LCC joins faith groups in seeking Ontario physicians’ “conscience rights” in assisted suicide and euthanasia
TORONTO – An open letter to Ontario’s 107 legislators from faith leaders, including the president of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, asks the Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to amend Bill 84 (Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act) to include the right of physicians and health-care workers to decline providing medical assistance in dying (MAID) based on their conscience. The bill amends various existing pieces of legislation to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia.
By including “conscience rights” the bill would address the current guidelines adopted by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). According to the CPSO, physicians and healthcare workers can decline assisting in a patient’s death but must refer the patient to someone who will provide the service, a practice known as “effective referral.” The letter points out “whether you do something yourself or arrange that it be done by someone else (effective referral), you are causing it to happen.”
“Life and death decisions shouldn’t be made in a moral vacuum or against one’s faith,” noted President Bugbee. “And no one should be penalized for making a decision based on their conscience or religious convictions.”
The letter states that eight Canadian provinces do not require “effective referrals” from physicians. It also notes that “Freedom of conscience and religion are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These rights must be respected, especially in matters of life and death.” The fear is that failing to assist in death will lead to sanctions and recriminations for the health care provider. Further, without “conscience rights” those with strong life-affirming moral convictions may no longer be comfortable pursuing medical careers.
Published as hearings on Bill 84 begin, the letter is signed by representatives from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communities, Jewish and Muslim leaders, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, The Salvation Army, and Lutheran Church–Canada, the only mainline protestant church body included.
In 2015 LCC joined other Christian communities and faith groups to speak against assisted suicide and euthanasia following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision which decriminalized assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.
The PDF full text of the letter is available here.
A resource developed by the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience that explains the current problem with Ontario’s euthanasia legislation and the lack of conscience protection rights, and offers some possible solutions is available here.